Don Glut is a man of many talents. He’s written both books and comics, and he’s a filmmaker as well. Most importantly for Sword & Sorcery fans, Don is the creator of Dagar the Invincible, a well- remembered S&S comic published by Gold Key Comics in the 1970s. (See our history of S&S in comics for more information about
Don was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to answer a few questions via Email about his days writing Dagar, his career making movies, and other interesting subjects. For more information about Don, check out
What's the correct pronunciation of Glut and what's your preferred pronunciation of Dagar?
It’s “Gloot,” thanks for asking. Actually, when I came up with the name of Dagar, I pronounced it with a soft first “a,” as in the word dagger. He carried a dagger as part of his weaponry, so I thought the name and pronunciation were appropriate. However, everyone else – including my editor at Gold Key -- pronounced it “Day-gar,” with the long “a.” He said my pronunciation sounded too much like the word “dagger.” Well, duh! I tried fighting it for a couple years to no avail. So, I guess, it’s officially “Day-gar.” I pronounce it that way now also, so that makes it official.
Tell us a bit about how you came to create Dagar.
Not too much to tell. Sword and sorcery was “hot” at the time, so I thought I’d try my hand at writing an S&S story. So I pitched a short story for Mystery Comics Digest featuring a hero called with the name “Daggar.” It wasn’t meant to be the start of a series. The editor bought it and the character was officially born. Then I wrote a second Daggar story for MCD, which the editor also bought. Then – he called me up, and this is before either of the stories had yet seen print, and told me he thought an actual book featuring the character was a good idea. There were two problems. First, he didn’t like the name. Second, there were still those two short stories that had yet to see publication. He didn’t think it appropriate that those two short stories appear in the Digest after the debut of the actual book starring the character, and I saw his point.
So, while he tinkered around with various other names for Daggar (including Zagar), he changed the name of the MCD hero to Duroc…which later (because it rhymed with Turok) got changed again to Durak…who I later had meet both Dagar and Dr. Spektor.
At one point I wrote a synopsis for the origin story in which I called the character Shaark, a name that was also shot down. Finally, my editor called me up and said the series character would be spelled "Dagar". I kind of liked that because, as I was not yet certain that I’d get name credit in the book, "Dagar" contained both of my initials! By the way, the official title of the book (which I fought against) was TALES OF SWORD AND SORCERY. The Gold Key editors really liked those TALES OF… titles. But almost everyone ended up calling the book DAGAR anyway. At last that’s what I’d like to believe.
Who were your inspirations and influences as a writer?
If you mean sword & sorcery writing, it must have been mostly (if not entirely) my friend Roy Thomas, because I didn’t particularly like the S&S genre and hadn’t really read much or even any of it, other than what was coming out then in the comic books, or the occasional S&S story that had appeared before Marvel’s CONAN book in the black & white comic magazines. If you mean as a writer in general, I could mention a number of inspirations, including Stan Lee, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Edwin H. Colbert, Joe Kubert and Al Feldstein, to name some of them.
How did you break into the comic book industry?
I got in via Forry Ackerman, who called me up one day and told me that his publisher Jim Warren needed writers for CREEPY, EERIE, and then what would become VAMPIRELLA. Those Warren stories I did constituted my first professional comics-writing work. I’d actually made some submissions to various companies before that – including a “Blue Beetle vs. Captain Atom” story to Charlton that got rejected.
I've heard that Gold Key had some pretty strict rules regarding the amount of violence in their comics. Did this cause you any problems? Dagar still seemed to get in plenty of sword-swinging action.
It wasn’t so much the violence at Gold Key – remember, I was also writing vampire, werewolf, zombie, etc. stories for that company before the relaxing of the Comics Code – but other, sometimes silly, things. My characters couldn’t say “ain’t,” for example, or “heck” (a euphemism, they said, for “hell”) or “What th --?” (euphemism for several things). So I could have a vampire in my story and he could drink blood and get staked through the heart -- but he couldn’t say “ain’t.” Also, the editors didn’t like continuity at Gold Key, even though I did manage to sneak quite a bit of continuity into the tales I scripted. The editors didn’t believe that anyone would read two consecutive issues of a single title – or if they did read them, that they’d remember what took place in the previous issue. No footnotes or letter columns, either. They didn’t want to cater to the “fanzines,” as the editors called fans who attended conventions, wrote in LOCs, etc.
I also had a problem working black characters into the stories. One of the editors was kind of paranoid that no matter how positively we treated a black character, the NAACP or Black Panthers or someone would picket our offices – or worse. And one editor was an out-right racist! Yet somehow I managed to work in the Torgus character into DAGAR, who I really liked working with, more so than Dagar himself, as well as working Elliott Kane into the Spektor series. (A relative of Elliott, by the way, Nathan Kane, turns up in my novel “FRANKENSTEIN AND THE EVIL OF DRACULA.”)
We have a lot of writers at Flashing Swords. Could you tell us a bit about your writing process? How you approached the comic scripts?
Hmmm, I’m not really sure what you want me to say here. I would just come up with an idea – or, sometimes I would be given an idea, usually by Roy Thomas at Marvel – and I’d write the story up. If your natural ability is writing, coming up with stories and then writing them is not a difficult feat, as far as I’m concerned. Wherever your talent may lie – whether it be in business, acting, sports, music, whatever – realizing it should be relatively easy for you. Not only is it your talent, it’s probably also your passion. And when you can do it on a professional level, it’s like playing and getting paid for it, what Joseph Campbell called “following your bliss.” Then the people without that ability can wonder…"just how do you get your ideas"?
During your time at Gold Key you managed to link your three series, Dagar/Dr.Spektor/Tragg, with guest appearances and cameos. You also revived Dr. Solar for an issue of Dr. Spektor and I know there are connections between Dagar and your issues of Kull.
You've even managed to link Spektor to your film work. What is it that attracts you to all the cross-overs and cross-continuity? A lot of the Flashing Swords readers probably don't know about your films so you might talk about that a bit.
I just think it’s fun to do. Probably it’s the eternal fan in me who remembers how cool it was – long before continuity was so commonplace – just to see Green Arrow and Aquaman appear in a comic book panel together, or to read a story in which Tarzan goes to Pellucidar. Now nobody cares even when characters from different companies crossover into each other’s “universes.” I guess I’ve always thought of all my stories (including movies, short stories and novels) taking place in the same universe. Long ago I decided to plant clues in the comic-book stories, short stories, novels and now movies that were all connected. Maybe I was influenced by some of the writings by Phil Farmer…or by someone telling me how the Green Hornet was really the grand nephew of the Lone Ranger. Whatever, I decided to put all of these continuity clues all over the place in things I wrote. Someday, I thought, maybe somebody with way too much time on his or her hands would read something I wrote…maybe one of my Frankenstein novels…and spot references to my comic books, movies, whatever.
By the way, Dr. Spektor makes a (sort of) cameo appearance in our upcoming movie
“THE MUMMY’S KISS: 2ND DYNASTY”. (By the way, we’re always looking for investors in these films, so if anyone out there would care to become a part of the movie business, please send them my way.)
And although I have no plans to make a sword and sorcery movie, some friends (including stop-motion animator Jim Danforth and the late Bob Greenberg) and I did try to get a Dagar movie going based on his first four issues (the Scorpio “story arc,” as such things are now called). Jim even did a painting, which I have on my wall, of Dagar being carried off by a giant vampire bat. But the project died in its infancy. I also tried (unsuccessfully) to get a Dr. Spektor TV series going, as well as a Turok movie following the demise of the Dagar film project.
Dark Horse Comics has recently published reprint volumes of Gold Key's Magnus and Dr. Solar. Any rumors of a Dagar reprint volume?
Not that I know of. I don’t think there’s a big enough fan base for my characters. If enough people had read them in the first place, their books probably wouldn’t have been canceled when they were. I think – for reasons I can’t really fathom, although I have some suspicions – that there might even be some kind of resentment for those characters, possibly for me personally. I noticed, for example, in that recent DR. SOLAR reprint book, that Solar’s 1970s return was briefly mentioned – but not the fact that he came back in the DR. SPEKTOR book or that I was the one who revived Solar (not to mention the Owl and the Purple Zombie, somewhere along the line). Also, I found it odd that none of my characters crossed over into the Valiant stories, while Turok, Magnus, etc. did. I’m sure Tragg and Turok could have teamed up, maybe Dagar, Durak and Tragg, also.
Any idea what became of Dagar artist Jesse Santos?
I know he went into the TV animation business, as many of us did (including me) when the comic book “bubble” burst (but that’s another interview). The last I heard of Jesse was when he did that interview for COMIC BOOK ARTIST magazine. I assume (and hope) he’s doing well. I always liked Jesse. He was especially good at doing portraits, and conveying emotion and mood. He had his own style and I’ve yet to see it copied. Did you know that Jesse was also a lounge singer?
Given the chance would you like to write a new Dagar series? Any unfinished stories you wanted to tell?
The only comic book I’d care to write now would be a revival of Dick Briefer’s 1950s pre-Code FRANKENSTEIN. Otherwise, writing any new comic-book series – especially a genre I don’t particularly enjoy, like S&S – would be just a chore. Also, there’s little chance of someone my age being hired by a mainstream comic-book company (today’s my umpteenth birthday, by the way). Age bias has affected a lot of old 1970s comic-book people, although a lot of us won’t admit it. It’s basically a career for younger people. But there were a number of stories I’d written – and still have -- for all my characters back in the 1970s, assuming as I did that the books would continue into the future. Some of these stories are fully scripted, others exist as just outlines. But I really don’t want to write comics anymore. Been there, done that.
And comics – like TV animation -- was always for me a stepping-stone to what I really wanted to do – make movies – which I’m doing now.
Can’t ask for a better tag line than that. Thanks for talking to us, Don.
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